There are two schools of thought on market research: those who consider quantitative market research valid and those who consider it outdated.

Some quantitative market research techniques are about to fail without a doubt. That’s because consumers have deeply changed the way they purchase and markets are now extremely fast. So quantitative research methods that can’t keep up will possibly disappear in the next future.


Quantitative market research: why call it into question

Traditional quantitative research approach is based on identifying reasons that lead consumers to purchase. Some of the most used methodologies are:

  • focus group: to share and design new marketing plans related to consumers’ behavior
  • observation: to understand customer’s behavior in real-time
  • ethnographic research: to analyze the target audience behavior in location (for example in an office)
  • phone and face to face interviews

On one hand these quantitative data can provide information on leading product or service (as they can provide detailed analysis directly related to the target). But on the other hand, they’re extremely expensive and time consuming: two characteristics that clashes with market demands.

But it’s not just a matter of costs and time. In fact, a lot of these studies revealed how consumers act while purchasing an item and this is an important parameter for our evaluation.

Let’s see now how details matter for market research efficiency.


Consumer decides in a quick and irrational way

In the last 10 years research was able to outline how consumers make a purchase. Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” unveils these mechanisms:

  • System 1 | Fast and subconscious: what we use the majority of the times. For example, if we have to buy pasta in supermarket, we don’t spend hours deciding between brands: we decide in a few seconds.
  • System 2 | Slow and conscious: what we use in rare situations for important purchase. Being a demanding system, we rarely use it.

Kahneman’s position questions rational consumer thesis which is the ground of traditional research. In fact, it seems that the majority of the time buyers tend to decide in an irrational rather than rational way.


Long interviews influence answers

Consumer’s irrationality influences market research too. A lot of scientific literature confirms that the more you talk to a person the more you’re able to influence their answers. In fact, we make them more aware of the purchase of what they really are, affecting the statistical analysis.

For this reason, methodologies like focus group are now called into question because they force people to move from System 1 (which is naturally predominant) to System 2.


Contrast short-term memory with “fast” research

Another key factor for market research is “short-term memory”. Gerald Zaltman – professor at Harvard University – showed how human brain tends to lose information in time unconsciously replacing them with others.

What can marketing learn from this? Market research has to be faster and more effective as time passed between a purchase and the interview increases possibility of incorrect data.

Face-to-face research methodology can be really effective in collecting real-time feedback from the buyer right after their purchase.



In the last 20 years consumer behavior has changed and this change has also shaped market research.
So what is the best solution for research agencies today? Adopt quick market research techniques that are able to take advantage of new technologies (web and mobile) with moderate costs, like IdSurvey survey software.

And what about traditional research tool? We think they’re still useful in collecting data if correctly used – as they still guarantee a deeper understanding of the target.


Discover IdSurvey for market research.